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Comoros Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Comoros Map

Introduction

Background

The archipelago of the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, composed of the islands of Mayotte, Anjouan, Moheli, and Grande Comore declared independence from France on 6 July 1975. Residents of Mayotte voted to remain in France, and France now has classified it as a department of France. Since independence, Comoros has endured political instability through realized and attempted coups. In 1997, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared independence from Comoros. In 1999, military chief Col. AZALI Assoumani seized power of the entire government in a bloodless coup; he initiated the 2000 Fomboni Accords, a power-sharing agreement in which the federal presidency rotates among the three islands, and each island maintains its local government. AZALI won the 2002 federal presidential election as president of the Union of the Comoros from Grande Comore Island, which held the first four-year term. AZALI stepped down in 2006 and President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed SAMBI was elected to office as president from Anjouan. In 2007, Mohamed BACAR effected Anjouan's de-facto secession from the Union of the Comoros, refusing to step down when Comoros' other islands held legitimate elections in July. The African Union (AU) initially attempted to resolve the political crisis by applying sanctions and a naval blockade to Anjouan, but in March 2008 the AU and Comoran soldiers seized the island. The island's inhabitants generally welcomed the move. In 2009, the Comorian population approved a constitutional referendum extending the term of the president from four years to five years. In May 2011, Ikililou DHOININE won the presidency in peaceful elections widely deemed to be free and fair. In closely contested elections in 2016, former President AZALI Assoumani won a second term, when the rotating presidency returned to Grande Comore. A new July 2018 constitution removed the presidential term limits and the requirement for the presidency to rotate between the three main islands. In August 2018, President AZALI formed a new government and subsequently ran and was elected president in March 2019.

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Definitions and Notes

Geography

Location

Southern Africa, group of islands at the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel, about two-thirds of the way between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique

Geographic coordinates

12 10 S, 44 15 E

Map references

Africa

Area

total: 2,235 sq km

land:2,235 sq km

water:0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 179

Area - comparative

slightly more than 12 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

340 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone:200 nm

Climate

tropical marine; rainy season (November to May)

Terrain

volcanic islands, interiors vary from steep mountains to low hills

Elevation

highest point: Karthala 2,360 m

lowest point:Indian Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

fish

Land use

agricultural land: 84.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 46.7% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 29.6% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 8.1% (2018 est.)

forest:1.4% (2018 est.)

other:14.2% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

1.3 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

1.2 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

the capital city of Maroni, located on the western side of the island of Grande Comore, is the country's largest city; however, of the three islands that comprise Comoros, it is Anjouan that is the most densely populated as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

cyclones possible during rainy season (December to April); volcanic activity on Grand Comore

volcanism: Karthala (2,361 m) on Grand Comore Island last erupted in 2007; a 2005 eruption forced thousands of people to be evacuated and produced a large ash cloud

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

important location at northern end of Mozambique Channel

People and Society

Population

864,335 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Nationality

noun: Comoran(s)

adjective:Comoran

Ethnic groups

Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava

Languages

Arabic (official), French (official), Shikomoro (official; a blend of Swahili and Arabic) (Comorian)

Religions

Sunni Muslim 98%, other (including Shia Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Protestant) 2%

note: Sunni Islam is the state religion

Demographic profile

Comoros’ population is a melange of Arabs, Persians, Indonesians, Africans, and Indians, and the much smaller number of Europeans that settled on the islands between the 8th and 19th centuries, when they served as a regional trade hub. The Arab and Persian influence is most evident in the islands’ overwhelmingly Muslim majority – about 98% of Comorans are Sunni Muslims. The country is densely populated, averaging nearly 350 people per square mile, although this varies widely among the islands, with Anjouan being the most densely populated.

Given the large share of land dedicated to agriculture and Comoros’ growing population, habitable land is becoming increasingly crowded. The combination of increasing population pressure on limited land and resources, widespread poverty, and poor job prospects motivates thousands of Comorans each year to attempt to illegally migrate using small fishing boats to the neighboring island of Mayotte, which is a French territory. The majority of legal Comoran migration to France came after Comoros’ independence from France in 1975, with the flow peaking in the mid-1980s.

At least 150,000 to 200,000 people of Comoran citizenship or descent live abroad, mainly in France, where they have gone seeking a better quality of life, job opportunities, higher education (Comoros has no universities), advanced health care, and to finance elaborate traditional wedding ceremonies (aada). Remittances from the diaspora are an economic mainstay, in 2013 representing approximately 25% of Comoros’ GDP and significantly more than the value of its exports of goods and services (only 15% of GDP). Grand Comore, Comoros’ most populous island, is both the primary source of emigrants and the main recipient of remittances. Most remittances are spent on private consumption, but this often goes toward luxury goods and the aada and does not contribute to economic development or poverty reduction. Although the majority of the diaspora is now French-born with more distant ties to Comoros, it is unclear whether they will sustain the current level of remittances.

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Union of the Comoros

conventional short form:Comoros

local long form:Udzima wa Komori (Comorian), Union des Comores (French), Jumhuriyat al Qamar al Muttahidah (Arabic)

local short form:Komori (Comorian), Comores (French), Juzur al Qamar (Arabic)

etymology:name derives from the Arabic designation "Juzur al Qamar" meaning "Islands of the Moon"

 

Government type

federal presidential republic

Capital

name: Moroni

geographic coordinates:11 42 S, 43 14 E

time difference:UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: Moroni derives from "mroni," which means "at the river" in Shingazidja, the Comorian language spoken on Grande Comore (N'gazidja)

Administrative divisions

3 islands; Anjouan (Ndzuwani), Grande Comore (N'gazidja), Moheli (Mwali)

Independence

6 July 1975 (from France)

National holiday

Independence Day, 6 July (1975)

Constitution

history: previous 1996, 2001; newest adopted 30 July 2018

amendments:proposed by the president of the union or supported by at least one third of the Assembly of the Union membership; adoption requires approval by at three-quarters majority of the total Assembly membership or approval in a referendum

note:a referendum held on 30 July 2018 - boycotted by the opposition - overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that allows for 2 consecutive 5-year presidential terms and revises the rotating presidency within the islands

Legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic religious law, the French civil code of 1975, and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:at least one parent must be a citizen of the Comoros

dual citizenship recognized:no

residency requirement for naturalization:10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President AZALI Assoumani (since 26 May 2016); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government; note - AZALI takes oath of office 2 June 2019 after 24 March 2019 reelection (2019)

head of government:President AZALI Assoumani (since 26 May 2016)

cabinet:Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments:president directly elected by simple majority popular vote in 2 rounds for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 24 March 2019 (next to be held in 2024)

election results:AZALI Assoumani (CRC) elected president in first round; with a 59% of the vote; - AZALI Assoumani (CRC) 60.8%, Ahamada MAHAMOUDOU (PJ) 14.6%, and Mouigni Baraka Said SOILIHI (Independent) 5.6%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Assembly of the Union (33 seats; 24 members directly elected by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed and 9 members indirectly elected by the 3 island assemblies; members serve 5-year terms) (2017)

elections:last held on 19 January 2020 with a runoff on 23 February 2020 (next to be held in 2025) (2020)

election results:seats by party -1st round - Boycotting parties 16, Independent 3, CRC 2, RDC 2, RADHI 1, Orange party 0; note -  9 additional seats filled by the 3 island assemblies; 2nd round - CRC 20, Orange Party 2, Independents 2; composition as of 23 January 2020 men 20, women 4, percent of women 16.7%

 

(2019)

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (consists of 7 judges)

judge selection and term of office:Supreme Court judges - selection and term of office NA

subordinate courts:Court of Appeals (in Moroni); Tribunal de premiere instance; island village (community) courts; religious courts


  

 

Political parties and leaders

Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros or CRC [AZALI Assoumani]
Democratic Rally of the Comoros or RDC [Mouigni BARAKA]
Independent Party [N/A]
Juwa Party or PJ [[Ahmed Abdallah SAMBI, Mahamoudou AHAMADA]
Orange Party [Mohamed DAOUDOU]
Party for the Comorian Agreement (Partie Pour l'Entente Commorienne) or PEC [Fahmi Said IBRAHIM]
Rally for an Alternative of Harmonious and Integrated Development or RADHI [Houmed MSAIDIE, Abdou SOEFO]
Rally with a Development Initiative for Enlightened Youth or RIDJA [Said LARIFOU]
Union for the Development of the Comoros or UPDC [Mohamed HALIFA] (2018)

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AMF, AOSIS, AU, CAEU (candidates), COMESA, FAO, FZ, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, InOC, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Bocchit EDMOND (since 23 December 2020)

chancery:Mission to the US, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 418, New York, NY 10017

telephone:[1] (212) 750-1637

FAX:[1] (212) 750-1657

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: the US does not have an embassy in Comoros; the US Ambassador to Madagascar is accredited to Comoros

Flag description

four equal horizontal bands of yellow (top), white, red, and blue, with a green isosceles triangle based on the hoist; centered within the triangle is a vertical white crescent moon with the convex side facing the hoist and four white, five-pointed stars placed vertically in a line between the points of the crescent; the horizontal bands and the four stars represent the four main islands of the archipelago - Mwali, N'gazidja, Ndzuwani, and Mahore (Mayotte - department of France, but claimed by Comoros)

note: the crescent, stars, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam

National symbol(s)

four five-pointed stars and crescent moon; national colors: green, white

National anthem

name: "Udzima wa ya Masiwa" (The Union of the Great Islands)

lyrics/music:Said Hachim SIDI ABDEREMANE/Said Hachim SIDI ABDEREMANE and Kamildine ABDALLAH

note: adopted 1978

This is an audio of the National Anthem for Comoros. The national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition - usually in the form of a song or hymn of praise - that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, or struggles of a nation or its people. National anthems can be officially recognized as a national song by a country's constitution or by an enacted law, or simply by tradition. Although most anthems contain lyrics, some do not.:

Economy

Economic overview

One of the world's poorest and smallest economies, the Comoros is made up of three islands that are hampered by inadequate transportation links, a young and rapidly increasing population, and few natural resources. The low educational level of the labor force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. Agriculture, including fishing, hunting, and forestry, accounts for about 50% of GDP, employs a majority of the labor force, and provides most of the exports. Export income is heavily reliant on the three main crops of vanilla, cloves, and ylang ylang (perfume essence); and the Comoros' export earnings are easily disrupted by disasters such as fires and extreme weather. Despite agriculture’s importance to the economy, the country imports roughly 70% of its food; rice, the main staple, and other dried vegetables account for more than 25% of imports. Remittances from about 300,000 Comorans contribute about 25% of the country’s GDP. France, Comoros’s colonial power, remains a key trading partner and bilateral donor.

Comoros faces an education system in need of upgrades, limited opportunities for private commercial and industrial enterprises, poor health services, limited exports, and a high population growth rate. Recurring political instability, sometimes initiated from outside the country, and an ongoing electricity crisis have inhibited growth. The government, elected in mid-2016, has moved to improve revenue mobilization, reduce expenditures, and improve electricity access, although the public sector wage bill remains one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. In mid-2017, Comoros joined the Southern African Development Community with 15 other regional member states.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 10,042

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:1.2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 575,218

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:68.51 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 171

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Qatar launched a special program for the construction of a wireless network to inter connect the 3 islands of the archipelago; telephone service limited to the islands' few towns (2020)

domestic:fixed-line connections only about 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular usage over 68 per 100 persons; two companies provide domestic and international mobile service and wireless data (2019)

international:country code - 269; landing point for the EASSy, Comoros Domestic Cable System, Avassa, and FLY-LION3 fiber-optic submarine cable system connecting East Africa with Europe; HF radiotelephone communications to Madagascar and Reunion (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

national state-owned TV station and a TV station run by Anjouan regional government; national state-owned radio; regional governments on the islands of Grande Comore and Anjouan each operate a radio station; a few independent and small community radio stations operate on the islands of Grande Comore and Moheli, and these two islands have access to Mayotte Radio and French TV

Internet country code

.km

Internet users

total: 69,635

percent of population:8.48% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 188

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 1,181

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 194

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:9

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

D6

Airports

total: 4 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 185

Airports - with paved runways

total: 4 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:1 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m:3 (2017)

Roadways

total: 880 km (2002)

paved:673 km (2002)

unpaved:207 km (2002)

country comparison to the world: 187

Merchant marine

total: 244

by type:bulk carrier 7, container ship 9, general cargo 105, oil tanker 28, other 95 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 61

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Moroni, Moutsamoudou

Military and Security

Military and security forces

National Army for Development (l'Armee Nationale de Developpement, AND): Comoran Security Force (also called Comoran Defense Force (Force Comorienne de Defense, FCD), includes Gendarmerie); Ministry of Interior: Comoran Coast Guard, Comoran Federal Police (2019)

note: when the Gendarmerie serves as the judicial police, it reports to the Minister of Justice

Military and security service personnel strengths

Comoran Defense Force has an estimated 600 personnel; est. 500 Comoran Federal Police (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the defense forces are lightly armed with a mix of equipment from a variety of countries, including France, Italy, Russia, and the US

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for 2-year voluntary male and female military service; no conscription (2019)

Military - note

the AND is limited in capabilities to performing search and rescue operations and maintaining internal security; a defense treaty with France provides naval resources for protection of territorial waters, training of Comoran military personnel, and air surveillance; France maintains a small maritime base and a Foreign Legion contingent on neighboring Mayotte

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

claims French-administered Mayotte and challenges France's and Madagascar's claims to Banc du Geyser, a drying reef in the Mozambique Channel; in May 2008, African Union forces assisted the Comoros military recapture Anjouan Island from rebels who seized it in 2001

Trafficking in persons

current situation: human traffickers may exploit domestic and foreign victims in Comoros and Comorians abroad; some Comorian and Malagasy women are subject to forced labor in the Middle East; adults and children may be forced to work in agriculture, construction, or as domestics in Mayotte; children abandoned by parents who left to seek jobs abroad are vulnerable to exploitation in domestic service, vending, baking, fishing, and agriculture; children from poor families whose parents place them with a relative or acquaintance for educational opportunities are vulnerable to domestic servitude and physical and sexual abuse; some children in Koranic schools may experience forced labor in agriculture or domestic servitude; inadequate border controls; government corruption, and international crime networks leave Comorians vulnerable to international trafficking

tier rating:Tier 3 — Comoros does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking is not making significant efforts to do so; the Anti-Trafficking Task Force met for the first time since 2017 and began drafting a national action plan for combatting trafficking; the government took steps to ratify the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and supported centers that identify and provide care to victims of crime, would include trafficking victims; however, authorities continued to lack an understanding of trafficking and did not make any anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; the government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any alleged traffickers or officials suspected of complicity in trafficking; the government did not develop any standing operating procedures for identifying trafficking victims and referring them to limited care providers; no public awareness campaigns were conducted (2020)

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